[nfbwatlk] FW: A Report from Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata

Jacob Struiksma lawnmower84 at hotmail.com
Wed Dec 23 21:39:21 UTC 2009



From: City Councilmember Nick Licata [mailto:nicksnotes at seattle.gov] 
Sent: Wednesday, December 23, 2009 9:26 AM
To: lawnmower84 at hotmail.com
Subject: A Report from Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata




*	Cultural Overlays for Neighborhoods <>  

*	Nightlife Advisory Board <>  

*	Words' Worth <>  

*	Seattle Composers <>  

Civil Rights

*	Referendum 71 <>  

*	Voter-Owned Elections <>  

*	Free Speech <>  

*	Veteran Discrimination <>  

*	Lobbyist Registration Update <>  

*	Open Space Signage Initiative <>  

*	Policy Reform or New Jail? <>  


*	Urban Forestry Commission <>  


*	Police Accountability <>  



*	Alaskan Way Viaduct Saga <>  

*	Mercer Project <>  

*	Spokane Street Project <>  

*	First Hill Streetcar <>  

*	Seattle Snow Response <>  

2009-2010 CITY BUDGET

*	Library Budget <>  

*	City Light Rates <>  


As Chair of the Culture, Civil Rights, Health and Personnel (CCRHP)
Committee, I oversee Seattle Public Library, Arts, the Seattle Office for
Civil Rights, each the Human Rights, Women's and LGBT Commissions issues as
well as health, labor and personnel legislation Pages 1 through 6 highlight
the work of that committee. Pages 6 through 10 have examples of work outside
of this committee. 


Cultural Overlays for Neighborhoods 

For the 2010 budget the Council passed a budget action to have the Office of
Economic Development, the Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, and the
Department of Planning and Development work with Council staff to develop a
workplan to implement the recommendations of the Cultural Overlay District
Advisory Committee (CODAC). Resolution 31155, endorsing CODAC
recommendations passed in August. A progress report will be presented to in
February of 2010 with a March final report. Find CODAC
<http://www.seattle.gov/council/codac/default.htm> recommendations here.

I invited planners from Vancouver, British Columbia, to share with City
staff and Councilmembers their observations on similarities and differences
between their cultural facilities work and Seattle's cultural overlay zoning
efforts. Cultural Planners Jacqueline Gijssen and Diana Leung presented an
overview of Vancouver's Cultural Facilities Priorities Plan - a 15-year
master plan for cultural space; talked about their City's cultural
infrastructure - departments, positions and how they work together;
described their regulatory review; and detailed civic involvement in the
creation of Vancouver's cultural spaces - zoning, planning, financing growth
policies, etc. I am grateful that Jacquie and Diana agreed to keep helping
our work as it progresses.

Back to Contents 


Nightlife Advisory Board 

The City Council formed the Nightlife Advisory Board to, among other things,
make recommendations to the Council about how to best accommodate nightlife
and increasing residential density in mixed-use areas.

The Commission includes residents, nightlife industry representatives, and
members from the liquor control board, public safety, and a noise expert.
The Nightlife Advisory Board will issue its recommendations in late 2009. 

Back to Contents 


Words' Worth

My most recent Words' Worth poetry term was curated by Felicia Gonzalez, a
celebrated Seattle writer, alumna of Hedgebrook Writers Retreat and the Jack
Straw Writers Program, as well as a recipient of both an Artist
Trust/Washington State Arts Commission Fellowship and an artist's grant from
the Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs for her chapbook,
Recollection Graffiti. 

Over the past 12 years we've had over 200 readings! Take some time to
discover Seattle's wonderful poets by visiting Words'
<http://www.seattle.gov/council/licata/poetword.htm> Worth.

And, if you would like to learn about serving as a curator, please email
Frank Video in my office at frank.video at seattle.gov

Back to Contents 


Seattle Composers

There are now 6 Seattle music composers gracing my Seattle Composer website:
Fred Schactler, with his composition "Soliloquy #3"; Tim Janof, with "Piece
for Solo Cello #9", Sarah Bassingthwaighte, with "Eleven Portraits",
Christopher DeLaurenti, with "Sylvian's Wood", and Tom Baker, with "Rumor".
I started Seattle Composer to present music one might otherwise never have
the opportunity to hear. 

Learn  <http://www.seattle.gov/council/Licata/composer/default.htm> about
each artist; and listen to as well as purchase their music. If you'd like to
comment or submit your own composition, please email Frank Video in my
office at frank.video at seattle.gov. Also, be sure to catch Christopher
DeLaurenti's music column in The Stranger called 'The Score'.

Back to Contents 



Referendum 71

I was pleased to propose and sponsor a resolution opposing the repeal of
Senate Bill 5688, <http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=5688>
a law to give rights of state registered domestic partners to equal married

Since 1973, Seattle has protected its citizens from discrimination on the
basis of sexual orientation. Our laws are important to promote to other
jurisdictions in order to be true to our commitment.  The City provides that
a) domestic partners be treated equal to spouses for health benefit
coverage, b) City pension beneficiaries can be a domestic partner, and c)
City contractors must provide benefits to their employees with domestic

Back to Contents 


Voter-Owned Elections 

Voter-owned elections, or public financing, allow a candidate to qualify for
public funding if able to demonstrate broad support and agree to standards
such as limits on private fundraising, a limit on using personal funds, or
limits on third-party funding.  In 1992, Washington voters adopted
Initiative 134, ending Seattle's voter-owned elections system. Fortunately,
the Washington State Legislature adopted legislation in 2008 to allow voters
in cities to vote to create public financing programs.

This year, the Council developed a timeline to develop a publicly financed
elections program with a possible ballot measure in 2010 If voters approve,
candidates could participate in a program in 2011. Voter-owned elections
connect people with government. I look forward to hearing Seattleites' ideas
as we develop a program in the months ahead.

Back to Contents 


Free Speech 

  <http://www.seattle.gov/council/licata/images/freespeech.gif> In 2001, I
and Councilmembers Steinbrueck and Nicastro, voted against a new "Special
Events Permit" law with new requirements for parades and other "free speech
activities."  At the time, I argued that the bill did not include needed
safeguards and repeated the problems of an earlier Seattle law which was
ruled unconstitutional. Though I hoped these problems would be solved over
time, I was concerned that the City might be sued.

Suit was brought by the ACLU on behalf of the October 22nd Coalition, a
group that opposes police brutality. In 2008, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals found the ordinance unconstitutional because it gave police too much
discretion to revoke or alter permits.

This year I was the sponsor of legislation that maintains Seattle's proud
tradition of the full exercise of the free speech rights of its citizens by
curing the 2001 law of its constitutional defects. The City Council codified
by ordinance the rules in accordance with the Court's decision requiring: 1.
clear standards be used to modify parade permits, 2. a written explanation
of decisions and 3. a mandatory review process. 

Back to Contents 


Veteran Discrimination

Combat veterans report inappropriate employment and housing interview
questions of whether they could work with someone opposed to the war or
whether they suffer from psychological problems. 

I led the Council to amend the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) to prevent
discrimination in employment, public accommodation, and housing based on an
individual's status as a veteran.  The addition of veterans and military
status to Seattle's equal opportunity ordinances provides the assistance of
the Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR) when this occurs.

With longer and more frequent deployments, service members in Iraq and
Afghanistan are more concerned than ever with finding and keeping both their
civilian jobs and the housing that those jobs support. It is critical to
ensure that after serving their country, the needs of those who have
sacrificed so much are met. Nationally 131,000 veterans are homeless on any
given night and about twice that many are homelessness at some point over
the course of a year. 

Back to Contents 


Lobbyist Registration Update 

Newly this year, the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission has reports
<http://www2.seattle.gov/ethics/lobbyists/reports.asp>  on a 2008 bill, I
sponsored, requiring paid lobbyists to register with the City of Seattle.
You can click on the "Name" or "Month" field on the top or the "Who Lobbies
for Whom" field on the left to see who's lobbying whom plus quarterly and
annual reports with more detail.

Back to Contents 


Open Space Signage Initiative

This year I convinced the Council to earmark $30,000 in the 2010 budget for
outreach and enforcement at our downtown Privately Owned Public Spaces.
This came on the heels of my walking tour last summer led by the Seattle
Architecture Foundation to bring greater attention to the need for
developers to comply with signage obligations

Under Seattle zoning laws, developers can build bigger or higher, if they
provide a specified amount of space for public use. Twenty-six of these
spaces, called Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS), exist throughout
downtown and require signage to inform us that they are for public

  <http://www.seattle.gov/council/images/public_space.jpg> Still, some are
without signage. In Nick's Notes 2008, I reported that DPD developed a logo
and notified 26 property owners of the regulation. Only 4 properties were
signed. As of today, 12 properties have signage. For some properties, the
owner is required to provide and erect the signs; it is the City's
responsibility for others if the owners do not comply voluntarily. It is
estimated that it will cost $30,000 to complete enforcement and outreach
activities, including fabrication and installation of signage.

Back to Contents 


Policy Reform or New Jail?

This year the Seattle City Council released a jail capacity study requested
with my urging during the fall 2008 budget deliberations.

Seattle, along with most cities in the county, gets jail space from King
County. King County has informed Seattle that it will not extend its jail
space contract beyond 2012 because its projections indicated the county
would need those jail beds for its own inmates. The county is legally
responsible for the cost of jailing individuals arrested for felonies
(including most drug offenses). The intent of the study was to assess if the
county's use of jail beds could be reduced if Seattle used treatment-focused
approaches for lower-level drug offenders.

A Jail Capacity Advisory Group comprised of numerous leaders from the
criminal justice field helped with the study. Their input and review helped
inform the staff analysis. I am disappointed in the study conclusions that
existing criminal justice reform efforts are unlikely to offer Seattle
reductions that would significantly alter jail needs. Some members of that
group, like me, felt that the City missed an opportunity to help the County
reduce the use of jail beds for lower-level drug offenders and avoid the
need for a new jail.

Still, jail capacity planning efforts may benefit from new work in all the
eight areas recommended by the study.  The recommendations are to: 1.
Continue to test and update the County's jail population projections and
actual use; 2. Review the potential for more alternatives to incarceration
of inmates at the County jail; 3. Continue evaluation and monitoring the
pre-booking diversion for low level drug offender programs CURB, Co-STARS,
GOTS and the Drug Market Initiative;  4. Possibly extend the jail services
contract with Yakima County or the new SCORE facility (scheduled to start
construction later this year); and 5. Consider advocating in Olympia and/or
Washington, D.C. for drug law reform, sentencing reform, resources for
community supervision, and consolidation of jurisdictional jail
responsibility for felons and misdemeanants.

In pursuing the recommendations of the study, I believe that the Council
will find the potential role of pre-booking diversion in achieving the most
effective balance between enforcement and treatment for drug offenses to be
a recurring theme.

Back to Contents 



This year the Council affirmed their unanimous support for universal access
to quality health care, specifically the model referred to as single payer.
The single-payer model eliminates the waste and bureaucracy of the private
insurance industry while assuring patients their choice of doctor and
hospital. Upon the request of the Washington chapter of Physicians for a
National Health Plan (PNHP) Seattle joined 24 cities and counties and 18
states with similar resolutions.

Local government is closer to the people and their health care struggles
than most elected officials. Additionally, the costs to the City of Seattle
of providing health-care benefits to its employees have risen while City
revenue has not. An estimated 160,000, 15.6% of King County residents under
65 years of age, don't have health insurance. The number of uninsured
children in Washington State has reached its highest in more than a decade.

Back to Contents 


Urban Forestry Commission 

Seattle's urban forest reduces air pollution and aids in carbon storage.
Tree root systems absorb water that would fill stormwater pipes and pump
pollutants into our streams, lakes, and Puget Sound.  Plus, the City Auditor
recently reported that shade reduces energy use in buildings, or a third of
CO2 emissions. 

This 2009 Auditor report called for improvement of tree stewardship, better
coordination and outreach to stakeholders, revising regulations and
conducting a tree inventory.

In August, the City Council unanimously passed legislation I sponsored
establishing an Urban Forestry Commission. The commission will provide
expertise to the city in protecting and expanding our tree canopy while
accommodating growth. This measure accompanied a resolution sponsored by
Councilmember Conlin to revise regulations and incentivize tree planting and

The dilemma we face is expanding our tree canopy while increasing
residential density as foreseen in the Seattle Comprehensive Plan The
resolution calls for the Department of Planning and Development to develop
regulations and incentives to meet this challenge. Incentives could include,
for example, allowing additional development on a site if trees are

The Commission will assist the City by providing the expertise of
scientists, tree advocates, and developer representatives to ensure that
whatever comes forward is environmentally sound as well as practical, to
point the way toward a sustainable future that keeps the green in Seattle,
and helps the City realize its goal of increasing our urban forest canopy
from roughly 20% to 30% during the next few decades.

Back to Contents 



Police Accountability 

Seattle's police accountability system, called the Office of Professional
Accountability (OPA), has a citizen review board, the OPA Review Board or
OPARB. A law I led the Council to pass in 2006 gave OPARB access to closed
disciplinary files and obligated them to strict confidentiality in reviewing
those files. OPARB cannot use the information to impact the outcome of any
individual case, but it has a responsibility to review some sampling of
cases to better inform them in making policy recommendations to the Council
for OPA improvements.

The Seattle Police Officers' Guild (SPOG) sued the City arguing that the
ordinance impacted working conditions and could not be legislated by the
City Council without being successfully bargained in labor negotiations.
The Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) this year upheld this
important law for citizen review of Seattle's police accountability efforts.

I was gratified that SPOG did not appeal the decision so that police
officers, city officials and citizen watchdogs can continue the important
dialogue on issues that police officers and citizens share concern: how to
ensure the OPA is effective, fair, and responsive to all parties.

Back to Contents 



In 2007, I created and co-chaired with Councilmember Jan Drago, a Special
Committee on Pedestrian Safety. It was to be a two-year committee; 2008 was
the 2nd year. I got a third year of work in to complete the goals for the
committee we'd identified in 2007. Here are some highlights of this year's

  <http://www.seattle.gov/council/licata/images/pedsafety.gif> The
Pedestrian Master Plan Advisory Group, known as PMPAG, was convened by the
Council Pedestrian Safety Committee.  For Seattle to become a "walking
city," we must make walking safer.  This year, the City Council adopted the
Pedestrian Master Plan proposed by PMPAG
and made a commitment to try and provide up to $15 million in funding each

Funding the Plan will be the big challenge.  The Bridging the Gap levy will
provide about $60 million, funding approximately $41 million in new
improvements (e.g., sidewalks, curb ramps, signals) and approximately $19
million funding for maintenance (e.g., sidewalk repair, crosswalk
re-striping).  This only pays for a small percentage of the highest priority
improvements in the Plan.  Hopefully, additional private development can
leverage still more public and private resources to fund the Plan.

Although the so-called head tax - a funding source for pedestrian and bike
safety projects - was repealed in the 2010 budget, I led the Council in a
new direction to look at dedicating existing infraction revenue for
pedestrian safety purposes consistent with the Seattle Pedestrian Master
Plan. Right now, those revenues go into the general fund. The National
Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances recommends that all
automated traffic law enforcement revenue be dedicated to traffic safety
efforts. I've asked the Executive to explore the dedication of revenue from
the existing speed camera used in school zones. I will also encourage the
Council to determine how much revenue is collected from the red light camera
program (established in 2006) for possible future efforts to dedicate more
revenue to pedestrian master plan and possibly bike master plan funding


  <http://www.seattle.gov/council/licata/images/pedsafety.gif> Since
launching my Critical Crossings website in 2008, 27 crosswalks or
intersections have been posted Critical Crossings raises awareness of
pedestrian safety by inviting residents to submit photos along with
descriptions of crosswalks and traffic intersections they believe are in
some way critical to their safety. I share the submissions with SDOT, who
then study, respond, and sometimes implement pedestrian improvements to a
particular Critical Crossings location. To submit your own crossing or
intersection or to view those others have submitted, please visit our web
<http://www.seattle.gov/council/licata/crossings.htm> site.

  <http://www.seattle.gov/council/licata/images/pedsafety.gif>  In 2008,
Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) began - on my request - working
on the issue of construction resulting in sidewalk closures that make
walking dangerous, and if not dangerous, often confusing and forcing people
to go out of their way to walk a short distance. The City Auditor made
suggestions on how the City can meet the needs of pedestrians and not tie
developers up in needless red tape. This year SDOT began to implement the
new Pedestrian Safety and Work Zone Standards, including sidewalk closure
signs stating the duration of the closure and incentives for contractors to
provide pedestrian access. At the same time, the Council passed legislation
to assess penalties when no permit is obtained prior to beginning work in
the public right of way. The legislation also allows SDOT to issue citations
when terms and conditions of a permit are not followed.

Back to Contents 



Alaskan Way Viaduct Saga

2009 proved to be yet another eventful year for the Alaskan Way Viaduct. In
January the Mayor, Governor and County Executive reached a three-party
agreement for a $4.2 billion plan to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a
bored tunnel. The tunnel's estimated cost is $1.9 billion, while other
south-end SR 99 work is estimated at $900 million. The City agreed to cover
$937 million in projects, including a two-way Mercer from I-5 to Elliott,
completing the Spokane Viaduct project, a 1st Avenue Streetcar, the
construction of a waterfront promenade, and various other street

A few months later, the state legislature authorized spending $2.8 billion
for the bored tunnel/SR 99 project. At this point, for better or worse, I
believe the tunnel became a political reality, and the key issue turned to
who would pay for any cost overruns. 

Limited information about possible City funding sources for its projects was
included. I subsequently wrote Mayor Nickels in September asking for more
specifics about what taxes would be proposed, at what rate, and how long
they would go on for.

The budget proposed by Mayor Nickels assumed that the commercial parking
tax, a car tab fee, and a local improvement district would fund City
projects. However, specifics were not provided, so the Council passed
legislation directing the Executive to bring back concrete proposals in

When the Council received a proposed agreement with the State in September,
I asked the City's Law department whether voting on it could be interpreted
as consenting to Seattle paying for cost overruns. Based on their advice I
made a statement that I did not believe that in passing this agreement the
City of Seattle was agreeing to pay any cost overruns on the deep bored
tunnel. In any case, the agreement is a policy statement declaring the
City's intent to work with the state to complete the project. 

Future agreements will be when the real, substantive decisions will be made.
I will support future agreements if they conform to the Federal Office of
Management and Budget standards for best practices as previously identified
by our City Auditor. Unlike this agreement, future agreements must include a
reliability risk analysis of funding sources, and the development of
contingency plans in the event funding sources do not materialize.

Back to Contents 


Mercer Project

The two-way Mercer project was included in the Viaduct agreement mentioned
above. The original proposal called for a two-way Mercer east of Aurora.
There is now a "Phase 2" for a two-way Mercer west of Aurora, to Elliott at
the base of Queen Anne Hill. 

The original project is estimated to cost $190 million and Phase 2 just
under $100 million. The original project is $50 million short; the City bid
for federal stimulus funding to complete the project. We should know soon
whether it comes through. If it doesn't, there isn't a clear Plan B. I
haven't supported the project, because I don't believe it is a genuine
transportation improvement. The good aspects, such as improving access to
Lake Union Park and expanding bicycle lanes, could be done less expensively.
Phase 2 depends on funding from the sources listed for the Viaduct, for
which specifics are not yet available.

Back to Contents 


Spokane Street Project

Construction has begun on the $183 million Spokane Street Viaduct project.
This project will improve access from West Seattle to I-5 by widening the
Spokane Street Viaduct and building a new on and off ramp at 1st Avenue.
This will be critical for West Seattle's access to Downtown and points north
once Alaskan Way Viaduct construction begins. Work will be completed by the
end of 2011.

Back to Contents 


First Hill Streetcar

  <http://www.seattle.gov/council/licata/images/streetcar.gif> In September
the Council approved an agreement with Sound Transit for the First Hill
Streetcar that will run from Chinatown/International District to First Hill
and Capitol Hill. Funding for construction and operations was included in
the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure passed by voters in 2008. Construction is
scheduled to begin in 2011 with an opening date set for 2013.

In 2005 Sound Transit opted to not build a light rail station on First Hill,
due to costs and potential impact on federal funding. In 2007 the Council
voted to support including a First Hill streetcar in the Sound Transit
ballot measure to provide a connection to light rail

SDOT is conducting outreach about possible routes (Boren, Broadway, 11th and
12th are possibilities). Want
<http://www.seattlestreetcar.org/firsthill.asp> more information? The
Council could approve a route in spring 2010. 

Back to Contents 


Seattle Snow Response

The City of Seattle's response to the December 2008 snowstorms was not good.

The Council carried out an independent review of the City's snow response.
The report found numerous problems in management, coordination, work
tracking, and planning. As a result of this work and their own review, SDOT
has developed improved procedures and organization, in particular focusing
on preventive actions. The City and King County Metro have reached agreement
regarding better communication and coordination for street clearing for bus

In addition, after a Seattle Times report about the City's snow response and
problems at SDOT Street Maintenance Division, I hosted a briefing with the
Office for Civil Rights.

View the City's Response Plan online
<http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/winter_plan.htm> . Here you can also
access the SDOT Winter Weather Facebook page which provides regular updates
on snow response and preparations. SDOT's Twitter
<http://twitter.com/seattledot/> feed provides updates on road status
throughout town.

Back to Contents 


2009-2010 CITY BUDGET

Library Budget

  <http://www.seattle.gov/council/licata/images/reading.gif> As Chair of the
Council committee overseeing library legislation, I sponsored several
proposals to restore hours, including one for full restoration, which
Councilmembers Burgess and Harrell joined me in co-sponsoring.
Unfortunately, it did not garner the support needed for passage.

In the end, the Council voted to keep 11 geographically dispersed branches
open 7 days and 60 hours per week with 35 hour operating schedules 5 days a
week at the remaining 15 branches. Access to library's free internet and job
search resources is particularly crucial during this recession, particularly
for the third of households with no home broadband internet.

I also co-sponsored the Council's request that the Library explore new
sources of ongoing revenue. The City provides most of the Library's funding.
Yet, the ability to provide support fluctuates with City revenues. Fines,
copy and printing services, and other revenue sources are limited.
Consequently, the Council is interested in identifying a stable, ongoing new
revenue source for the Library in hopes of preventing future closures while
maintaining enough books, media, and computers to keep up with user demand.
The Council will get a written report from the Library by June of 2010.

Back to Contents 


City Light Rates

City Light underpins local prosperity. It is important to protect its
financial stability and integrity as a public utility, and maintain service
quality. City Light rates are much lower than the nearest comparable

The Council faced unpleasant decisions about City Light rates for 2010.
Revenues were projected to be $140 million short. $70 million of this gap is
due to rates not keeping up with expenses; $70 million is due to a decline
in revenue from selling electricity on the open market. Although the Council
approved cuts to City Light, the gap could not be closed through cuts alone.
An increase was necessary.

We faced two options: to increase rates 13.8% or 7.8%. Unfortunately, the
lower rate would increase the likelihood we would need to raise rates again
in early 2010 to sell bonds needed to operate City Light, and also increase
the odds of an increase in mid-2010 if surplus power sales come in below
projections, as has happened five of the last seven years. If the latter
happened, an increase would have to be double in order to cover losses for
the entire year. Reducing dependency on surplus power sales would require
even higher increases.

Plus, the lower increase would make a much lower bond rating more likely,
and costing ratepayers even more over forthcoming years. After considering
these issues, I voted to support a 13.8% increase, still leaving City Light
rates among the lowest in the nation, and lower than 2001 rates when
considering inflation.

Next year we need to tighten financial management to get the most efficient
service possible for ratepayers and examine financial assumptions of City
Light's operations.

City Light offers assistance programs
<http://www.seattle.gov/light/accounts/assistance>  for seniors, disabled
and low-income ratepayers; (206) 684-0268.

Back to Contents 



Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata
Mailing Address: PO Box 34025, Seattle, WA 98124-4025
Physical Address: Seattle City Hall, 2nd Floor, 600 4th Ave., Seattle, WA

Visit the Seattle City Council Website at www.seattle.gov/council where you
can view Council meetings in progress and access previous meetings.


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